An artist’s impression of a black hole like the one weighed in this work, sitting in the core of a disk galaxy. The black-hole in NGC4526 weighs 450,000,000 times more than our own Sun. CREDIT: NASA/JPL-Caltech

New Cosmic ‘Scale’ Could Weigh Distant Black Holes

by Charles Q. Choi, Contributor
Date: 30 January 2013 Time: 01:01 PM ET

Swirling gas around black holes may be the key to estimating the masses of black holes otherwise too distant to weigh, according to a new study.

Supermassive black holes millions to billions of times the mass of the sun are thought to lurk at the heart of all large galaxies. Oddly, the properties of these black holes appear linked with a variety of properties of their parent galaxies, such as how bright the galaxies are and the speed of stars within them. This suggests a fundamental link between galaxy and black hole evolution.

“This is quite surprising, and not well understood, as these relations tie together black holes with event horizons on solar system scales and galaxies, which are billions of times larger,” study lead author Timothy Davis, an astrophysicist at the European Southern Observatory in Garching, Germany, told “Why a massive galaxy should care about its black hole, and vice versa, is not well understood.”

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